Genetically engineered mice are used extensively to examine molecular responses to spinal cord injury (SCI). Inherent strain differences may confound behavioral outcomes; therefore, behavioral characterization of several strains after SCI is warranted. The Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan Locomotor Rating Scale (BBB) for rats has been widely used for SCI mice, but may not accurately reflect their unique recovery pattern. This study's purpose was to develop a valid locomotor rating scale for mice and to identify strain differences in locomotor recovery after SCI. We examined C57BL/6, C57BL/10, B10.PL, BALB/c, and C57BL/6x129S6 F1 strains for 42 days after mild, moderate, and severe contusive SCI or transection of the mid thoracic spinal cord. Contusions were created using the Ohio State University electromagnetic SCI device which is a displacement-driven model, and the Infinite Horizon device, which is a force-driven model. Attributes and rankings for the Basso Mouse Scale for Locomotion (BMS) were determined from frequency analyses of seven locomotor categories. Mouse recovery differed from rats for coordination, paw position and trunk instability. Disagreement occurred across six expert raters using BBB (p < 0.05) but not BMS to assess the same mice. BMS detected significant differences in locomotor outcomes between severe contusion and transection (p < 0.05) and SCI severity gradations resulting from displacement variations of only 0.1 mm (p < 0.05). BMS demonstrated significant face, predictive and concurrent validity. Novice BMS raters with training scored within 0.5 points of experts and demonstrated high reliability (0.92-0.99). The BMS is a sensitive, valid and reliable locomotor measure in SCI mice. BMS revealed significantly higher recovery in C57BL/10, B10.PL and F1 than the C57BL/6 and BALB/c strains after moderate SCI (p < 0.05). The differing behavioral response to SCI suggests inherent genetic factors significantly impact locomotor recovery and must be considered in studies with inbred or genetically engineered mouse strains.